Pattern Design – Layout, Writing, Photos, Oh My!

I have spent a lot of hours over the past few days, trying to write out my beret pattern!  Talk about work, headaches, and so on.  It really is a nuisance – or maybe it’s just me?  Not only do I want clear instructions, I want to create a pattern which is pleasant to look at when it is published in a PDF format.  What to do?  Where to begin?

There are probably”obvious” places to begin…but I expect they vary with each individual.  This is the sequence I followed as far as publishing went:

  1. Create the diagrams of the patterns, the body and the decrease.  From there, export them into a PNG format and divide them up into sections.
  2. Decide on the layout – pictures, text – what to put where.  Also decide on a logical sequence.
  3. Create the pattern in MS Publisher.
  4. Convert to PDF

Steps 1 to 3 were easy enough, but for whatever reason, Adobe would not convert the Publisher file into a PDF document.  Finally, I hit on saving each page in Publisher as a PNG, and combined all 5 pages of the pattern into one PDF file.  Whew!  Of course, I’ve already discovered a few mistakes in spelling, and design flaws (biggies, IMHO), and thoughts for better instructions.  Despite this, the PDF is sent off to the test knitters, and I will need to make corrections – but not tonight, thank you!

Oriel Pic 4

Lastly, a friend has the beret, to photograph for me!  Certainly the pictures will be better than the ones I took.  The ones in the original PDF will be replaced by ones far better than my sad little ones….


Isn’t it good?

There is just something about color knitting – stranded knitting – that gets me more than anything else.  Of late, I’ve been enjoying the making of hats and mitts and gloves, in cables and in lace, but ahhh!  Color!  Truly addicting.  This WIP is from Terri Shea’s book Selbuvotter, and this is NHM #7.

NHM 7 - d

NHM 7 - c

I’ve only been working on these for a few days, but I think I should be done in about a week, between work and classes and life….

NHM 7 - b

The Four Treasures: Brushes, i

The brush used in ink painting and calligraphy, as practiced in countries such as Japan, China, and Korea, is very different than those used in traditional western painting arts, such as watercolor or oil painting. Because of the differences, it can be very frustrating for the westerner to learn how to hold and how to use the Asian brush. How the brush is held, and how the brush is manipulated, requires re-learning and re-thinking habits instilled from childhood.

Older Americans who learned cursive writing using the Palmer Method will appreciate the importance of posture in Eastern brush techniques, as well as exercises designed to help learn how to manipulate the brush. Younger people, unexposed to daily handwriting drills in school, may or may not find it a challenge to hold the brush in the prescribed methods, as well as practicing exercises designed to enhance one’s skill in using the brush. Learning how to use a brush may be equated with learning a musical instrument, or, for that matter, learning anything new – practice makes the unfamiliar familiar, and provides the basis from which an acquired skill becomes the vehicle for artistic expression.

For all who wish to learn to control the brush, some information about differences in materials may be helpful. The western paintbrush consists of three parts – the handle, ferrule, and bristles. The handle is generally made of wood, though acrylic or plastics can also be used. It can be long, straight, or curved. At the end the handle is the ferrule, usually made of metal, which holds the bristles of the brush. Some companies, such as Isabey, make brushes with a goose quill wrapped with metal wire, to hold the bristles in place.

Traditional bristles in western brushes are usually sable, squirrel, camel, and hog. Sable is a soft hair from the tail of the sable marten, and is used primarily by watercolorists. Squirrel and camel are also very soft, but do not form the fine point that sable does; their ability to retain water as well as reasonable cost makes them attractive for both professionals and students. Hog bristle is stiff and bouncy and generally used in acrylic and oil painting. Synthetic bristles are also used to create equivalent natural hair brushes.

The shape of a western brush is also different than that of the traditional Asian brushes. Type of medium and desired use determine the shaping of the bristles in the western brush. Broadly speaking, western brushes come as rounds, flats, brights, fans, filberts, slant or angle, riggers, and mops. Rounds are primarily used for detail, with the tip of the brush coming together in a fine point. Sable is famous for this quality. Squirrel and camel can be used to create soft brushes primarily used to spread thin medium quickly, such as in watercolor washes; mops are often made of these hairs. Fans are used spread paint, and for blending. Brights are short and stiff, and have the ability to push paint deep into a canvas, as well as create texture in impasto painting. Flats have longer bristles than brights, and are used spreading paint evenly across the painting surface. Filberts are a variation of the flat brush, having long bristles, but they are structured so that the bottom of the brush is curved. Riggers are detail brushes, with long, narrow bristles capable of creating long graceful lines.

Generally speaking, western brushes do not contain mixtures of hair. Asian brushes can be made up of all sorts of hair – from that of newborn babies, to elephants, to sheep, pony, wolf – and even feathers! These are often mounted in a bamboo handle, although wood or other materials can also be used for the handle. The qualities of different hair determine their usage, just as they do in western brushes. Soft, absorbent hair, such as sheep, is used to create brushes for “boneless” painting, washes, and the beautiful soft shades of dark to light found in sumi-e. Harder hair, such as wolf or pony, is used to create sharper lines, such as found in calligraphy. Combinations of different hair create brushes which might have a firm, hard point along with an absorbent soft hair. In addition to hair and feathers, brushes can also be made of shredded bamboo or dried grasses. In combination with ink, the textures produced by such materials can be very interesting and exciting.

The creation of well-made brushes, whether western or Asian, is labor intensive, with numerous steps involved in the creation of a single brush. Hair is chosen, sorted, cleaned, combed, mounted in a handle. A soft glue is frequently used to help retain the shape and protect the bristles of a brush when shipped. This is easily dissolved by soaking the brush for a while in cool water, and then rinsing out the softened glue prior to initial use. Proper care and cleaning of a paintbrush will aid in its lasting several years, and even old and worn-out brushes still serve their owners in many ways. After use, all brushes need to be cleaned and put away to dry. Asian brushes usually need nothing more than cool water, blotting, and reshaping to a point. They are left to dry either hanging, if there is a loop on them, or on their sides. Never let your Asian brush dry tip up – the glue holding the bristles in place may dissolve, or worse, the brush could mildew or rot.

Designing a Pattern: Berets

I’ve been making hats and socks for what seems forever – certainly since high school and college. Both are rather formulaic. Socks are easy enough – if you know how to make socks, you no doubt have your formula, and adapt based on weight of yarn, design elements, and for whom it is being made. Hats are the same – toques, watch caps, berets – all have basic principles, and you move on from there. However, there is a big difference in trying to write down a pattern for someone else to use!

Basic Beret Formula

This is my basic formula for a beret-style hat, and from it have sprung many.

  1. Measure head of intended recipient (if possible). If not possible, I use 18-20 inches for an adult woman, average size (meaning me!).
  2. Figure out the general gauge of yarn in stockinette.
  3. Multiply stitches per inch of yarn, and multiply that number. Example: 6 stitches per inch for a 19 inch head results in 114 stitches.
  4. Determine the ribbing or bottom edging of the hat. If ribbing, I usually will decrease my total cast on so that the hat will be snug, and the stretch of the ribbing will allow for comfort at the same time. If the bottom border of the hat is not in ribbing, I still decrease a bit, but not as much perhaps. A decrease of 1 to 2 inches is normal.
  5. What is the pattern going to consist of after the ribbing or lower edge is completed? If the design has definite elements of obvious knit and purl, I try to work the ribbing into the first row of the pattern, to allow for a smooth transition between the two.
  6. Berets require some expansion from ribbing to the pattern, and this also means increasing stitches. I usually like to increase the number of stitches anywhere from a third more, to doubling, depending on how the pattern knits up. This can be done by increasing stitches in the ribbing or band, as well as moving from smaller to larger needles.
  7. Finally, I knit the hat. As I knit, the hat sort of creates itself, even if I have an idea in mind. Sometimes a hat starts out as slouchy and loose, but the pattern may change that. Or vice versa. Sometimes I consider if I want to block out the hat pattern – easier to see once knitting begins – or not. And take it from there.
  8. Ending the hat is perhaps the most complicated part of the pattern. Where there are decreases, such as SSK or K2TOG, it can be advantageous to the design to K1B. How to incorporate YO can also be a design challenge!

Beret in Design

So, there we have it – a brief outline on designing a beret as I do it. Pretty soon I hope to have a pattern available . . . and let’s see how well it takes off! I have written out the pattern in a rough manner, and have a test knitter in the person of my wonderful mother-in-law, Judy, and hopefully in my friend Donna will be available for the final draft.

Next task: creating a nice publication for the pattern!

Time Flies!

On New Year’s Day I vowed I would not let life get in the way of writing on this blog.  But, like all things, something else seems to get in there, no matter what the good intentions.  Work, life, knitting, classes, whatever.  Mostly it seems that I have been knitting, and reading all about radiation protection and digital radiography.  Writing takes some time – to do it well requires something to write about, and some thoughts about it all.

Here, we are emerging from a short spell of colder weather.  Lows in the 40s with some rain – not enough, but some!  There are clouds in the sky, there is a breeze, and altogether it is lovely weather.  Out in the flower beds, the freesias are coming out – no flowers yet, but the leaves are perky and green.  The roses have been pruned.  The calla lilies are unfurling the first of their blooms.  The windows are open and the songs of the first mockingbirds are to be heard.  Spring in January!  Welcome to California!

From late October of 2008 I really got on a knitting binge.  I finally took the time to explore Ravelry and look through Knitty, both sites which I really enjoy.  I also decided to make something for everyone, mostly little things, but also designed a sweater-sweatshirt for our nephew who is 16 months or so now.  Some items I designed, others I found and used patterns.  I made hats and mitts and a pair of socks or two.  So, to keep it brief, I am including some snaps of things made . . . .

Rose Red 2

Rose Red

Rose Red Detail 2

Rose Red in White

This was a pattern I really enjoyed knitting up.  The designer is a young woman from Scotland, Ysolda Teague, and you can purchase the pattern through Ravelry or her website.  There are links to her on the sidebar.  Above are my pictures of the finished hat.

Another pattern which I enjoyed I also bought from Ravelry.  This is the Tretta hat by Grumperina – great design, and I learned a few new things, such as the fact that there are right-slanting and left-slanting make-one increases!  Just goes to show there are new things under the sun!

Tretta in Pink

Like a lot of knitters, I have piles of stash . . . boxes of stash . . .  this is made out of Lamb’s Pride by Brown Sheep, in a bright, warm pink.

Pink Hat  2

Pink Hat Detail

Pink Hat

The beauty of this hat is its design. The pattern is very closed up when it is not on a head – but once on, it is stretchy and elastic, and fits very nicely!

Dashing Mitts

Moving on to another present, I made the Dashing mitts by Cheryl Niamath. This pattern can be found on Knitty. They are really easy to make and a lot of fun!


And finally, another hat.


Woolley Wormhead designs hat. This one is a free pattern which can be found on Ravelry as well. As with Tretta, this one was made with stash, a deep teal (the photo does not do justice to the color) in Lamb’s Pride as well.


Another time, some pictures of my own designs, and a pattern perhaps!